Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Catholic Carnival 98

Well, it's my turn to host the illustrious Catholic Carnival, and I must say, considering I'm a no-name blogger, a surprisingly large number of respondents sent in submissions. Without further ado and in no particular order:

Past readers know I have a bit of a beef with Richard Dawkins. I saw recently while visiting my local bookstore that the "esteemed" Dr. Dawkins has a new book out. Now, ordinarily, before casting stones I prefer to read my opponent's writings, so as to better steel myself for the coming battle. But when I saw the title of Dawkins' latest screed, The God Delusion, I realized that it would be a complete waste of my time. Fortunately, John Bambenek has written a rather scathing review at his blog Part-Time Pundit. Thanks, John, for taking a bullet for the rest of us.

Catholic education is of course a goal of any blog which titles itself Theological Calculus, so here's a link courtesy of Allan Wallace to his new carnival on school choice.

The redoubtable Professor Bainbridge continues to expound on Andrew Sullivan's use of the term "christianist", calling Sullivan a Whig Inclusivist. Frankly, I consider Sullivan to be a self-important pretentious blowhard, so any post that punctures his "mystique" is a good thing by me.

It's important to remember that as Catholics we should above all be concerned with spiritual concerns, so here's Sarah R at Just Another Day of Catholic Pondering with a timely update on that perennial debate -- the old church vs the new church.

SFO Mom has some thoughts about how to increase the length of Christmas from one day to eight. Hey, if the Jews can do it, why not us?

Christine at Domestic Vocation makes the seemingly bizarre yet quite profound comparison of God with potted plants. I've never thought to consider God as a ficus, but she makes some interesting points. Read for yourself. (And there was that one bush...)

Like SFO Mom, John Gedbaw wants us to remember that Christmas is not just a single day, but a whole season. Sometimes I think modern society has lost touch that religion is not merely about an hour on Sundays, but should inform one's whole life. In line with that, the Church has helpfully layed out seasons of spiritual thought. As we head into the Christmas Season, we pass through the Season of Anticipation into the Season of Rejoice, as Christ enters the world anew.

Jay at Living Catholicism discusses a painting he saw on the wall of his local Spaghetti Factory (we have them in Seattle too!) and how all things serve God, whether we intend them to or not.

I'm not entirely sure whether these are different Jays, but Jay at Deo Omnis Gloria discusses the Lutheran doctrine of "faith alone" and counterpoints it with faith and works. To be honest, I've never understood the distinction. If you're a man of faith, won't you perforce do good works? At any rate, Jay gets a good post out of it.

Moneybags at A Catholic Life reviews "The Nativity Story". I'm always leery of religious films, in part because in attempting to reach a broader audience they often water down the most essential parts of the dogma. I have to give kudos to Mel Gibson for not falling into this trap. I like to see the religious interacting with secular culture, but I'll probably wait until "The Nativity Story" comes out on video.

I've often compared today's secular culture with nihilism, so I don't know how sympathetic I am to comparisons of liberalism with gnosticism, which at least acknowledges there is such a thing as truth, even if the truth is hidden. But Madcap at Global Conservative makes just such a comparison. I'll leave it up to you to determine whether he's right or not. Hey--I write, you decide.

I find Jared Diamond's arguments about the development of human cultures to be persuasive--to a degree. I don't necessarily believe that the development of nations is a biodiversity crapshoot, and I definitely don't believe that Papua New Guineans are more intelligent than modern people (Okay, some modern people), as Diamond claims. But here's SWP at CatholicLand! (His exclamation point, not mine) with a discussion on how God may have utilized the oh-so-convenient placement of Israel to further his message.

Kevin Miller of Heart Mind & Strength discusses the meaning of this week's Lenten reading, namely the importance of rejoicing that Christ will come to us to baptize us and give us the hope of salvation. He reminds us that salvation is only possible when combined with judgment. No one can be saved if no one is judged. Yet Christ loves us, and gives us all the chance to repent, so that when we are judged, we may pass through the fire unburned.

There are times when we feel as though there is little we can do to save ourselves--that life is just too hard. Joel at On the Other Foot makes the excellent point that even in those black times, the Church gives us the motions we must perform. Man floats in a great black ocean, but it makes a world of difference for his survival if he floats alone or if he has a piece of wreckage, no matter how feeble, to cling to.

Elena LaVictoire gives us more on the Faith vs. Works debate, as she follows bickering over at a Protestant blog (Oh, those wacky Protestants!) on whether Christ's sacrifice constitutes full payment of our debt to God, or merely squares away some of the principal.

Our lives are fraught with moral dilemmas, so fortunately we have good Catholic bloggers like Penitens at A Penitent Blogger to point out that others have gone the road before us: namely, St. Joseph, God's foster father. What would you do if your fiancee came home and informed you that she was pregnant and it was another man's? A good question, one I think a lot of people would struggle with. Fortunately for us Christians, Joseph made the right choice.

Finally, let's close out with a nice (if rather dark) prayer from Owen at Luminous Miseries, in which he prays for those stuck in Purgatory at the moment.

(What, you're still here? It's over. Go home!)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Fear My Outrage!

I am outraged, outraged I tell you! The Weblog Awards has no religion category! For shame, Pete Holliday, designer of polls, for shame! Where will I go to vote for my friend the Anchoress? Or my correligionists at Luminous Miseries? Oh, now I am sore with anger!

Anyway, vote for the Anchoress for best individual blog.

"I wept because I had no printer, until I met a man with no computer."

Up too late tonight. Staying at the library waiting for the copy center to reopen so I can print some documents I need to hand in tomorrow. Too much on my mind. Must sleep. God is telling me to hit the sack.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Spell Checker

I find it interesting that my spellchecker knows the proper spelling for Helmholtz, Lorentz, Foucault, and J. J. Thomson. MS Word must secretly be a physics geek.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Pope Bizzenedict

"Big shout out to all my peepz!"

Benny in Turkey

Pope Benedict is leaving Turkey right now, and al-Qaeda (hey, I remember those guys!) attempted to remain even remotely relevant by claiming that the Pope's visit to Constantinople was a "crusader campaign", designed to "extinguish the burning ember of Islam" in Turkey.

God, I wish.

The Beta and The Omega

I'm not a huge fan of this Blogger Beta. I switched over last week, and discovered that I could no longer log in with my old browser. I use a Linux box, and apparently the Linux-based browser I use is incompatible with Blogger Beta. So now I've installed Firefox, and got that problem solved. Now I can update and all that. But still, not a fan.

Friday, November 24, 2006

"There Is No Such Thing As A Religion Called "Christianity"'

"There is and always has been the Church, and various heresies proceeding from a rejection of some of the Church's doctrines by men who still desire to retain the rest of her teaching and morals. But there never has been and never can be or will be a general Christian religion professed by men who all accept some central important doctrines, while agreeing to differ about others. There has always been from the beginning and will always be the Church, and sundry heresies either doomed to decay, or, like Mohammedanism, to grow into a separate religion. Of a common Christianity there never has been and never can be a definition, for it has never existed." --Hillaire Belloc

An interesting point, and one that is followed up at realclearreligion.com.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanks Giving

Thanks be to God for all the myriad blessings we have received throughout the past year, and praise to Lord Jesus Christ, who, in His infinite wisdom, saw fit to die on the cross to redeem our sins.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Addicted to Life

In gaming theory, there is the concept of the martingale. Imagine you are sitting at a roulette table. The initial bet is 1 dollar, and you bet on black. Now, if it comes up black you win a dollar, but if it comes up red you lose a dollar. The martingale theory states that the only effective way to win is to double your bet every time you lose. If N is the amount you bet when you win, then the sum of your losses is 1 + 2 + 4 + 8 + ...+ N/2. If we factor out N, then we get 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + .... 1/N. Now, the infinite sum Sigma(i=1, infinity) 1/(2^i) is equal to 1. Since N is a finite number, the finite sum Sigma(i=1, N) 1/(2^i) is less than 1. This means that since your losses are equal to N(1/2 + 1/4 + ... + 1/N), this number is slightly less than N. As long as you obey this strategy, you will always come out ahead.

Hence, doubling down.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to double down at life. A hard lesson, but one I've learned all too well the last few days. You can't keep losing and losing, and tell yourself that you'll make it up later, and hope to win. Sometimes you lose, and sometimes you can't make it up. Sometimes things are for keeps, and you have to admit that you can't make things just like they were. Or would have been.

But you can make things better than they are now. I, like a lot of people, have the unfortunate habit of being addicted to life. "High on life" is such an oft-used statement that it's now a cliche. But life can be a drug, like any drug, and it can be addictive. A person gets caught up in life and allows it to run him, rather than the other way around. Little things suddenly become big things, and unimportant matters come to dominate your life. Every little thing becomes a crisis, and eventually comes paralysis. Overdose.

Like smashing your head against a wall. Why do you do that? Because it feels so good when I stop. And you want to stop. You double down, again and again, telling yourself that this time you'll win, that this will be the win that takes you out of the red and into the black, and life keeps calling you back. Here, it says. Take a little more of what I have to sell you. It hurts so good, doesn't it?

What causes it? Who knows. The devil, maybe. Or maybe it's simply that rotten little flaw deep inside you, the one you hear as that little voice. The one that says, "Eat all the brownies." The one that says, "Run this red light." The one that says, "Cheat on your wife." The one that says, "Pull the trigger."

We live in the House of Destruction now. It's an opera house, and we stand where the acoustics are perfect to pick up that little voice. To amplify him and reflect him off every surface, so that we are buffeted on all sides. We hear that voice, and more and more are listening. Everyday, that whispering little voice gains more and more disciples.

Bet again. You'll win it back. Double down. Bet it all.

Time to kick the pusher out the door, to shut that little voice up. To live and not be lived.

Time to break the habit.

Graffiti Blogging

I am strangely fascinated by graffiti. I often am intrigued by the messages--or lack thereof--people choose to scrawl on walls. So I photograph them. Note that I do not condone vandalism. I just find it fascinating the sorts of things people are willing to risk hefty fines for.

Graffiti comes in all shapes and sizes.
Some is optimistic:


Some is political:


Some merely inexplicable:


Nature leaves her own graffiti:


"We don't want our children viewing any of this trash!":


This is a rather detailed painting on a brick outside the Physics Building:


The text reads: "If you were a candy bar, you would be a Mars-Bar, because U would be out of this world!"
"Is your refridgerator [sic] running?"

Interesting sentiments.